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Well yesterday was definitely a day of two halves. We had a very successful day in the garden (more on that later) but it didnt start off too well.

Our house is not on mains drainage. which basically means we have a septic tank on our property that has a very infuriating habit of blocking. I can always tell when it has become blocked because I will put the washing machine on and halfway through a cycle, the drain for the washing machine will overflow. So we were getting our wellies on ready to go into the garden yesterday morning when lo and behold, we noticed that the drain was overflowing. ARGH!

So after a trip to B&Q to buy some new drainage rods and forty five minutes of rodding, pouring water into the tank and flushing the toilet repeatedly, we managed to clear it. Brilliant! I thought, now we can get on with the garden work.

So there we were, working away when from the field across the road from our house we could hear a lamb bleating. Nothing unusual there, except it continued for over an hour and steadily became more urgent. So I walked over and peered through the fence. There was a little lamb stuck between the fence and the stream. We dont know who  owns these sheep so I trudged round to see if I could get into the field to try to help it, turns out I couldnt.

Then just to top the day off nicely, on my way back I happened to glance down at the grass and found two young foxes lying on the ground having been shot with half of their insides hanging out.

Sometimes, I really hate living in the countryside.

Peonies

I have been eyeing up some peony bulbs in my local Morrisons store for about a week now and today I bought some. I am really excited about planting these as I think peonies are sooooo beautiful! They remind me of our lovely holiday in Italy last year.

I got a bulb each of the following varieties:

Shirley Temple:

Sarah Bernhardt:

Karl Rosenfeld:

Sorry for the dinky pics!! A pack of three of these bulbs is only £2 from Morrisons, and each bulb grows into a peony bush which can grow to about 80cm tall, with beautiful tissue-y blooms! These need to be planted during February and can be planted in any soil or position, which excites me. I think I might put one in the back bed with the tulips, and one in the front bed (my Monet style flower bed!) I cant wait for James to get home so that we can plant them!! I just hope that the weather is okay.

Also – Black Swan is AMAZING, very dark and disturbing in parts, but also beautifully filmed. Two thumbs up, Natalie Portman for the Oscar!

This week James is on a course and I have to admit I am getting a bit bored at home without him ( I am off out for dinner with my friend Holly tonight though, to see ‘Black Swan’ – I hope it is as good as the reviews say). However, we have lots to look forward to as this weekend we have decided to start work on the garden!

My sister gave a lovely present this weekend of some poppy seeds from the V&A museum in London, which are an orange, red and yellow variety, so I am going to sow these in the front and side beds mixed in with my red field poppies.

In my head, I want that front bed to look like a portrait by Monet, all bright smudgy colours! I am basically aiming to create this look, but with flowers rather than pre-bought plants and shrubs:

I also want to potentially start looking at potting up some vegetable seeds. I am going to read up a little more on this though as I dont want to start them off too early and then lose them if the conservatory becomes too cold. The weather ‘looks’ as though it is heading towards spring, but you just never know, plus there was a frost on my car this morning.

James will probably start digging in some of our homemade compost into the vegetable patches, in preparation.  We also need to tidy up the shed and prune the weeping willow which has grown into such a monster that we may need to call a Tree-surgeon in!

I also spotted some lovely rose shrubs and some bulbs on offer in Morrisons this week which I may look at purchasing. I cant wait!

Simply seeds…

I know I said I wasnt going to go mad over how many different things I was going to grow from seed this year, but this week that idea seems to have flown out of the window.After we got the basil, sunflower and morning glory seeds from Marks and Spencer I went onto http://www.simplyseed.co.uk and ordered my sweetcorn seeds for this year. Unfortunately they were out of stock of the ‘Swift’ variety that we grew last year, so I chose some ‘Golden nugget’  seeds instead. As they only cost 95p and postage is £1 I thought I would have a look and see what else was available.

I found some Aubergine seeds, also priced at 95p and chose the ‘Black Beauty’ variety, which are the large, shiny black type of aubergine, as below.

I told myself that that would be it for this year, however today James and I popped to the garden centre down the road from our house to get James’ potato and onion seeds for his own vegetable patch that he made last year (see garden construction posts for more details!). He chose a bag of ‘Home Guard’  chitting potato seeds and also bought a couple of bags of lily bulbs to go into the pots on the patio. I meanwhile wandered off to peruse the seed display. BIG mistake. I ended up buying rocket, romano pepper and beetroot seeds, of all things!!! I have absolutely no idea where all of these different plants are going to go!!!

Last year was the first time James and I had ever attempted ‘serious’ gardening, We had some great successes, quite a few failures and we spent an inordinate amount of money. Here are some things that we learnt from the experience:

Make your own compost – It really is a massive cost saver and is sooo easy. If I can refer you back to my previous posts on compost, you can sometimes actually order a compost bin from local councils for about £15 If not, DIY stores, amazon.com, ebay and your local garden centre are all good places to look. Then, just throw your garden waste, old tea bags, vegetable peelings, old fruit and vegetables and egg shells into it, and try to also add layers of cardboard (I used the cardboard from my amazon delivery boxes) and newspaper now and then. We started doing ours last year and it should be ready for us to use this year, meaning we dont have to buy bags of compost and plant feed to dig into the soil, we have our own free supply already!

Growing things from seed is trial and error but cheaper than buying plants! – I started a lot of our vegetable plants from seed last year and the majority of the plants worked well. However, dont do too many lettuce than you need (we did FAR too many and most of them rotted in the ground), spring onions didnt work at all for us last year but that may be due to me planting too many seeds in one tray, and seed tomatoes grew quite weak and spindly ( the actual tomato plants that we bought did much better).

Building a raised bed is EXPENSIVE – Fair play to all those lucky gardeners who salvage big pieces of wood to construct raised beds from, we got ours from a trade gardener’s store and they still cost us almost £150 all in all to buy. You can get smaller ready made ones and if I was to have any more in the garden, I would buy lots of the smaller ready made ones instead. It isnt just the wood either, the cost of the soil, compost etc needed to fill it soon mounts up. I am really glad that we have ours as anything that is planted in there seems to really thrive, but I am not sure we would repeat the experience, not to mention the cost.

Plants cant get enough water, especially in Summertime – Last summer it felt like all we did was constantly walk around the garden watering plants. How our water bill didnt rise extortionately, I do not know. Hanging baskets especially need LOADS of water, particularly in the 25 degree plus heat that sometimes we are lucky enough to get.

Supermarkets are a great source of cheap garden plants, tools and seeds – Morrisons in particular was amazing last year, and our garden is full of plants that we bought which I hope will really flourish this year. Strawberry plants and pumpkin plants are only £1 and packets of seeds about 75p.

 

Timing, position and feeding the soil are really important – By timing I mean what time of year is the best time to plant different things,  by position I mean where you are going to plant something, i.e in sun, partial shade, under a tree etc. By feeding the soil I mean that it is extremely important to ‘dig things in’ to your garden soil, this could be compost,manure or even special plant food. The advice that you receive on these different things should not be ignored.

I hope these bits of advice help you, too.

New seeds!

Yeay! tonight me and the Mister went to Marks and Spencer to spend some christmas vouchers. Whilst we were waiting to pay, I spied some seed packets by the flower display.

I love seeds, and have decided that this year I am going to create a flower bed at the front of the house using packets of wildflower seeds only.  I picked up a packet of red giant sunflower seeds and a packet of blue and white ‘morning glory’, which I am pretty sure we already have in our garden, but they are so pretty that it wont hurt for them to mingle in amongst all of the other wildflowers.

I also chose a packet of Basil seeds, as James really wanted to grow this last year but we didnt get round to getting some seeds.

Marks and Spencer only seem to have a limited range of seeds (I spied poppies, spring onions, sunflowers, basil and cottage garden flowers) but at £1 a packet I think these are great value.

I think I am going to wait until the last frosts have passed in February and then I am going to start planting my seeds. I am going to plant one seed per pot, this avoids having to move them around as they get bigger, plus we should have our own compost ready for then, so I wont need to be buying bags of the stuff unlike last year!

I think this lunchtime I will make a purchase of some lovely F1 Swift sweetcorn seeds, as these worked brilliantly last year!

Once I begin the propagation (posh word for starting off the seeds in a conservatoryor greenhouse etc)  I will detail how I did it along with photographs of the process.

A Guilty Pleasure!

One of the things I really look forward to is receiving the David Austen rose catalogue.

I should point out that a) We have roses in our garden already b) I have always thought of roses as particularly difficult to grow and c) They are really quite expensive as far as plants go. Plus the fact that James isn’t particularly keen on them and my dad has put me off trying to grow them as he says they are difficult to maintain.

I do so love them though. This morning I have been browsing the David Austen website looking at all the new varieties for 2011. My particular favourite of this year’s range is the ‘Maid Marion’ variety, shown below.

My absolute favourite type of rose are the apricot colour varieties. My friend Lizzie is getting married in Sorrento this year and she is having sunny yellow roses as part of her bouquet, which I think is quite unusual but will look amazing.

There are some really unusual looking varieties of rose too, very unlike your typical idea of what one should look like.

 

I really really really love the ‘Lady Of Shalott’ version too, with its lovely orangey blooms. It also apparently has a lovely warm tea-rose fragrance.

Either way, I am not sure I can justify spending £15 per rose plant, but if I won the lottery I would fill my garden with roses!!

If you fancy treating yourself to some roses for your garden, have a look at the website: http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/SlipGate.asp